Even in the afterlife, Lori is messing up The Walking Dead. Rick's dead wife has returned as the series introduced hallucinatory ghosts to its canon late last week, and wouldn't you know it? There was Ghost Lori beckoning Rick to leave the safety of the prison in the opening moments of "Home" because Ghost Lori would rather haunt us forever than move on to the spirit realm. So there was our fearless leader, plodding around in the exterior garden hugging and making out with the air while Michonne stared on in disbelief in one of the series' biggest bummers of a cold open.
In the immortal words of Shane, "Lemme ask you sumpt'n:" Raise your hand if you want to see Rick chasing after Dead Lori. Okay you, the one dude with the ghost fetish who raised his hand, get out! Rick's no stranger to a case of the Madness having already spent hours on the prison phone talking to dead people and stopping slack-jawed in the middle of a gun battle to see a vision of his dead ex-best friend, but it's time someone slap some sanity into him because Crazy Rick is boooooring, and has been boring ever since he first got the sweats and stomped around the prison. And for the most part, he's doing this on his own with no moral support (Hershel finally asked him "What up?" to which Rick replied, "I've... I've been... I've got... stuff out here."), taking him away from the group for a series of soap-opera acting lessons from Andrew Lincoln. Rick's mental deterioration should stoke enough concern from the rest of the group to stage some sort of cold shower or intervention, but instead everyone seems fine to let arguably their best chance at surviving this thing chase butterflies in the grass while zombies roam free in the area. Can you think of a worse journey to lead a show's main character on than a situation in which their reality is clearly altered (even Rick knows he's trippin') and it has the same effect on the group as if he had just stepped out for a long cigarette break? Rick needs to be interacting with the group, not chasing after his bitch of a cheating wife.
The absence of Ranger Rick and Deputy Daryl supposedly left Third-in-Charge Glenn in command, but his attempts to sway the troops towards his idea of ninja-assassinating The Governor were laughed at. Well, I laughed while everyone else traded awkward glances. Seriously, Glenn? You finally get to wear some stripes and your first idea is to play cat burglar? Revenge for the atrocities inflicted on him and his fair lady in Woodbury have Glenn totally bonkers.
Then Glenn and Maggie got in a fight for no reason, Axel and Carol had a chat that would prove pointless a bit later, and we were halfway through another mess of an episode that may as well have all its characters talk to bars of soap or wear pots and pans as hats and bang on them with wooden spoons. Thankfully someone remembered that this show was about killing zombies, and the second half of the episode appeased our blood lust.
Daryl and Merle came across a family pinned on a bridge by zombies, which allowed the brothers to have that "Are strangers worth saving?" argument (Daryl is pro, Merle is against). The idea was to bring Daryl back to the good guys for a bit and sell some Subaru Outbacks with the new Guillotine Backdoor feature, and both worked. But what did we learn about the Dixons in their time apart from the group, aside from seeing Daryl's back tats and child-abuse scars, that made this side trip feel necessary? Not a whole lot, and before the episode ended Daryl and Merle were already back at the prison so we can have the whole "What's Merle doing here?" argument all over again. And yes, it's coming. Prepare yourself. I was expecting Daryl and Merle to be on their own for at least a few episodes and have something interesting happen on their adventures, but that Daryl-Carol shipper fan base is pretty powerful, I guess. Anyway, it makes all that pro-brother arguing from last week seem pretty silly now.
After a bit more chatting that led nowhere (Hershel: "We need you back, Rick!" Rick: "Sorry, stuff."), Axel got cockblocked in the worst way possible while making moves on Carol, aka the closest thing with a vagina. We've seen these two really open up to each other in the last two episodes, and it was really great to see Axel accepted as a *BLAM* OH MY GOD THEY KILLED AXEL! Do these writers get off on developing a new character just enough for us to fall in like with them, only to have them eaten/shot/filleted in the very next scene? At least give us a ceremonial mustache shaving next episode please, because Axel's lip caterpillar is worth saving in a shoebox for a rainy day. I liked Axel. Sigh, throw him on top of T-Dog.
Axel was taken out by The Governor, who stopped by the prison to annoy its inhabitants rather than completely wipe them out. After that first lone shot nailed Axel right in the mustache holder, a lengthy rally of warning shots between The Woodbury All-Stars and The Prison Rats rang out and it was genuinely thrilling despite the fact that no one was able to hit a target for like 45 minutes. Then, like a game of street stickball, someone called "Timeout" while a car approached and everyone stopped shooting. This turned out to be The Governor's big move, and soon a truck busted through the gates untouched and everyone grabbed a breather instead of shooting at each other, because hey, truck! To be fair, it did look like it could have been an ice cream truck and everyone loves ice cream.
But instead of being filled with frozen dairy products in the shape of Spongebob, it was full of zombies! A lot of zombies! It was like a clown car full of zombie clowns! It was The Trojan Rabbit of Zombies! Perimeter successfully breached, The Governor and his thugs chuckled and went home leaving me puzzled about that plan. Was his intent to drop by, ruin the element of surprise, and leave the zombie apocalypse equivalent of a flaming bag of dog poop on their doorstep as a message? This was a great job for an annoying neighborhood teenager, but for a man bent on squashing the life out of his rivals, I would have put a little more effort into it. I mean, they took YOUR EYE, Governor. That deserves a little more than a slap.
And that's the thing about this climactic scene, it was super cool but did it make a lot of sense? Was this part of a larger plan or did The Governor simply get so mad that he needed to annoy Rick's group immediately? Something feels off about the whole thing if breaking down the gate was The Governor's main objective. Ditto about Daryl and Merle leaving and then quickly coming back, Carol and Axel's talking, and Glenn and Maggie's fight. These things are happening, but to what end? Show me some purpose, The Walking Dead!
"Home" was an incremental improvement over "The Suicide King," but didn't quite pull Season 3 out of the rut it's stuck in. These past two episodes stink of the writers stalling after overloading the front half of Season 3 with the good stuff, and now we're just watching people leave the group and come back, others go crazy or get angry and become problems, and Beth feed a baby. The Walking Dead is pretending that things are happening right now, but really it's just shuffling pieces around the board and hoping the finale gets here sooner.
– So Tyreese and Sasha and those other two actually left the premises completely. They'll be back, and I hope something interesting happened to them while they were gone.
– Daryl heard a baby screaming inside a car with closed windows before he heard men shouting and gun shots. Daryl is baby crazy, look out Carol!
– Also, Daryl and Merle should be looting those cars on the bridge instead of getting away as fast as possible because they're in an argument. Am I the only one who wants to survive this thing?
– I think it's time we all accept the fact that a crossbow isn't that great of a weapon in times like these. Daryl had to run around and yank ammo out of dead zombies, reload, and then hope he didn't miss. I'll stick with a flamethrowing missile launcher, thanks.
– The best thing about the episode (excluding all hatchback-related zombie kills) was Bear McCreary's score in the opening scene. We've seen him step up at times with some great pieces, but the overall series score has been so inconsistent that it's very noticeable when his tunes really add to the moment.
– What was happening at Woodbury? Not a whole lot. Andrea walked around looking for The Governor, Milton stammered, and The Governor actually complemented Andrea on her good speech and suggested that she lead the town.
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter if you want to: @TimAtTVDotCom